It was a Glenlivet 15 that Joe (not his real name) liked to have when he felt the way he was feeling today. He had concluded that it was the only drink that understood him, met his needs and provided him a shoulder to cry on. Not that he cried though, because men don’t cry. Only weak men do. And he was no weak man. So he finished his drink, paid the bill like a man (Glenlivet 15 is not cheap my friends) and got into his car ready to drive home – because a man must go home. PS: Don’t drink and drive. For Christ’s sake!
It is 2:46 AM in the night. I go to the kitchen to grab something to eat because I am the kind of person who opens the fridge in the middle of the night. Through the window, I observe a vehicle approaching. A 2017 Lexus LX. It was black and looking all huge and powerful and breathing like it was not sorry. A total man’s car. And because I love big cars, I said a little something to God about me having one like that one day- because a man must dream. But God did not say anything back. And because I am a man, I had to settle with the silence.
Later, I would go back to the kitchen, peep through the window to where the car was parked and witness the most bizarre activity my eyes had recorded in a while. The big man inside the car (the total man) was beating his meat while holding on to a tablet that was playing obscene videos. I saw things dear reader. Details shall not be revealed here simply because it is bad manners! I did not mean to continue watching him but my goodness! Why would anyone come from wherever they are coming from to park just outside their house – a house with a wife inside – to pop his champaign? As in to beat his bishop! To choke the damn chicken?! It bothered me like a parent who asked his teen son “What is it?” and the son said “Nothing.” Men in my culture say that seeing the nakedness of an older man and realising that you are seeing it without looking away will cost you your sight. So eventually, out fear of blindness I got my eyes of the snake being charmed inside a Lexus.
Then out of the blue, I recalled this other time when we were on a field assignment in Ukunda and spent all morning doing aimless laps like headless chicken. Reason being that we were lost, Google maps had become a bitch and this driver of ours did not want to admit that he was lost and needed help. When I asked him to call the ladies following us in the other car he said, “Mwanaume nikutafuta solutions. Huwezi lilia wamama.” And though I did not think about that response then, I am thinking about it now.
I grew up being told that men do not cry (or get emotional), men do not show weakness, men do not talk about their problems, men are the only problem solvers and other such like ideas about how men are should be and should not be like. Many of the times, it was in comparison to women. This was stressed even more when I was facing the knife; because when the pain become more than I could handle, I let out a squeal, and quickly an old man dashed to where I lay and asked, “Are you crying? Would you want me to tell the girls in your village that you cried on this day?” And I said no because it would have been an embarrassment to our clan. In all honesty, I was not groaning because I wanted to. I was groaning because the intern doctor carrying out the procedure on me almost fucked my life up, because he wasn’t doing it the way it should be done, because he was corrected by another doctor who was doing rounds seeing how his interns were doing.
According to Nairobi News and Counting Dead Women Kenya , 40 women have been murdered by men and forgotten about between January 1st and April 13th 2019. Among these 40 women, one, sadly, was axed to death by a young man who invested in acquiring an axe and enough fuel to drive for about 7 hours (approx. 341KM) in order to commit the ungodly act. According to the Daily Nation dated Feb 27 2017, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report ranked Kenya as the 6th most depressed country in Africa. The report further indicated that across the world, close to 800,000 people die annually due to suicide, the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29- year-olds. Recently, it has been found that men are 3 times more likely to die from depression than women. And that is where the I am stuck at.
Soon after the femicide (I have it in brackets because you should look up the meaning of words before you use them), every corner of social was filled with the sights and sounds of mentalhealthke, #mentoo_untoldtruth #mentalhealthke etc. People really talked about this issue. But just like any other noise made on twitter, they were just tweets. If you have come across any initiatives (that have had actual impact on actual people) to improve the mental health of both men and women as per the conversations flying around, please let me know.
The truth is that for so long, conversations around gender have always been men vs women. Boy-child vs girl-child. Men do not talk to each other. They don’t even talk about each other – at least women do. They have become so pathetic they having discussions around women, basing everything on women. Boys were brought up in this system talking among themselves and their peers, peers who just like them, know nothing about anything. Lift your hand up if you have ever sat down with your mother or father and they gave you a sex talk based on facts, and it didn’t sound like you were being threatened. Lift again if as a boy, your dad taught you how to take a girl out on a date and how to carry yourself and treat a woman with decency. Finally, boys, lift a leg if your father mentored you into becoming a gentleman, and went even further to teach you a craft. Now put your hands and legs down. Unfortunately, only a few of you (if any) have had fathers who were mentors; not fathers who were mere caretakers.
The way I see it, is that MEN MUST COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY. As a man, you must talk. You must not feel shamefaced to ask for assistance. You must not contain your tears when they want to be let out. You must accept that you are human, that you make mistakes as well, and that life will always offer you a chance to redeem yourself. You must not drink yourself silly because you are troubled, rather you must find someone to talk to and let it out. Your mouth must open when you are in pain. That is why you talk to yourself when you are sad, or pissed, or excited, or anxious.
Men, we must stop comparing ourselves with women – we are both human beings. We must start to talk about ourselves. We need to understand ourselves, what we need to do and how we need to do it. We need to teach each other and to learn from one another. We need to be aware of the responsibilities we have just because we are men, and to fulfil these responsibilities. Respectable older men must be willing to mentor younger men, and younger men must be willing to learn from respectable older men.
There is no mental health conversation going on without first admitting that there is a mental health problem. There is no mental health conversation happening on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Mental health conversations will be done when people actually meet and talk to each other, sharing what eats them up and walking the journey of fighting it together.